One of the best and easiest ways to save 10-23% or more on energy costs is to install a smart thermostat. These smart devices on your wall will learn your lifestyle routines to efficiently manage your home’s temperature for maximum comfort.
In the sea of thermostat companies, two of the most popular smart thermostat brands are ecobee and Google Nest. There are a number of other brands like Honeywell, Emerson, and Lux, but ecobee and Nest thermostats are considered tops.
For those in a hurry, the ecobee smart thermostat product line offers more options for you to customize based on your home.
Do check out the Best ecobee Smart Thermostats comparison for more details on ecobee thermostats.
Design and Display Interface
ecobee and Nest thermostats both have attractive sleek designs that’re distinct from each other. Let’s look at the design and interface on both lineups of thermostats available and the key differences between them.
Design-wise there’s no aesthetic difference between ecobee thermostats from generation to generation. However, the sizes do vary slightly across the range of thermostats:
- ecobee3: 3.9 x 3.9 x 1 in.
- ecobee3 lite: 4.05 x 4.05 x 1 in.
- ecobee4 and ecobee SmartThermostat: 4.29 x 4.29 x 1 in.
The thermostat housing is square with rounded corners and a rectangular touchscreen in the middle. The screen is a 3.5-inch full color touchscreen with a 320 x 480-pixel display.
The touchscreen has user-adjustable brightness and lights up when it detects someone close by thanks to its motions sensors.
This minimalist design looks sleek and modern across the product range and it will look great adorning any hallway. One drawback is the lack of color in the range as it only comes in black.
The touchscreen display is responsive, and the interface is simple with all the major options easily available.
The first major difference between the ecobee and Nest thermostats is ecobee’s square design vs Nest’s circular design. The difference in shapes results in different ways of using and operating the thermostats, which we’ll get into a little later.
The size dimensions and looks vary by Nest Thermostat model
- Google Nest Thermostat: Diameter of 3.3 in. and depth of 1.07 in.
- Nest Thermostat E: Diameter of 3.19 in. and depth of 0.97 in.
- 3rd Gen. Nest Learning Thermostat: Diameter of 3.3 in. and depth of 1.06 in.
Nest offers more color options than ecobee for each of its Nest models.
- Google Nest Thermostat: Fog (Gray), Sand (Pink), Charcoal (Dark Gray), Snow (White)
- Nest Thermostat E: White
- 3rd Gen. Nest Learning Thermostat: Black, Brass, Copper, Mirror Black, Polished Steel, Stainless Steel, White
The screen display size and resolution varies across the Nest thermostat lineup as well.
- Google Nest Thermostat: 2.4 in. diameter mirrored display screen with a resolution of 240×320
- Nest Thermostat E: 1.76 in. diameter frosted LCD display with a resolution of 320×320
- 3rd Gen. Nest Learning Thermostat: 2.08 in. high-res color LCD display with a resolution of 480×480
A great feature on the Nest displays is you can see the temperature and information from far away. That’s thanks to the bright display’s ability to set large bold fonts.
The interface and interaction is intuitive and Google Assistant voice controls can be used as they are Google Nest thermostats after all.
As far as the interface and its ease of use is concerned, there was very little difference.
Both systems offer an intuitive, well laid out menu system that offers instant access to basic functions, like setting the temperature.
The ecobee thermostat is modern, sleek, and blends in with a wall’s design. ecobee thermostats are not made to draw attention and focus from the rest of the wall.
On the other hand, the Google Nest Thermostats are designed to stand out and be the focal point of a wall. The numerous color options allow you to select a color that can highlight your wall’s color.
I’m going to call the Design and Interface comparison a Draw. The Winner of this matchup is based on your personal style preference.
For all Smart Thermostats, the process is similar. If you follow a few steps carefully then it can be done in less than an hour. However, if you’re not comfortable with electricity and wiring, then it may be best to get a professional installation.
For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume that your current wiring system is compatible with a smart thermostat and includes a C-wire. At the end I’ll discuss the options if no C-wire is available.
Important Step Before Doing Anything
Ensure your HVAC system is completely powered down before proceeding with anything.
If you’re unsure how to do this, then I would highly suggest you get a professional. However, it should be as simple as finding the appropriate breaker(s) in your circuit box and switching it off.
To make sure the power is off, try adjusting your heater or air conditioner with your current thermostat and ensure nothing happens.
The ecobee and Google Nest apps both provide a step-by-step guide to the installation process. Download the app first, available for Android and iOS, to read through the instructions.
Let’s go through the overview of steps.
Step 1: Remove your existing thermostat from the wall. Make note of where each thermostat wire goes. Carefully remove the wiring from the back to take off the old thermostat.
Both ecobee and Nest provide sticker labels out of the box to help label the wires on the base plate.
Step 2: Attach the wall plate for your thermostat onto the wall first.
Step 3: Attach the wires to their respective terminals on the base plate and attach the thermostat to the wall plate.
Step 4: Turn the power back on and test your new smart thermostat.
At this point your new thermostat should power up, and that is it for the hardware side of things. The process is similar for both manufacturers and after installation is completed, you can get into the software side with setting up schedules and preferences.
Mentioned earlier with wiring – What if you don’t have a C-wire?
First, a C-wire or common wire supplies power to the thermostat to keep its battery charged.
If you don’t have a C-wire in your system, there’s no need to worry because both brands have options that can resolve the C-wire issue.
Let’s look at the resolution for each one.
How to Install an ecobee Thermostat Without a C-Wire
Ecobee smart thermostats come with a power extender kit adapter that can be used in cases where there is no C-wire.
The adapter works across the lineup of thermostats and can be installed in your existing furnace in about 10 minutes. ecobee has an instructional video online to guide you through the process.
So, we can now assume that you have your thermostat attached, the power turned back on, and your new thermostat is up and running.
The ecobee thermostat itself has a walk through that will take you through the steps to get your heating system programmed correctly.
Also, an easy-to-follow tutorial is included with the app, and multiple instructional videos can be found on the ecobee website.
The procedure is simple to use and well explained. Keep in mind that the setup will vary depending on your heating system, but I found the whole process to be painless and intuitive.
How to Install a Nest Thermostat Without a C-Wire
The Nest system is perhaps easier to set up if there’s no C-wire because no adapter is needed. In most instances it will simply use the power from the heating or cooling wire to charge its internal battery.
However, with some HVAC systems such as micro-controller based systems or systems with certain gas valves, a C-wire will be required.
For me, after the Nest thermostat was installed, the setup process wasn’t quite as intuitive as the ecobee systems.
The questions it asked were similar, what temperatures you like, what type of heating system etc.
But whereas the ecobee system used its touch screen at this point, with the nest system responses were made by twisting the dial and pressing the thermostat like a button. Pressing icons on the ecobee touchscreen is a bit easier than dialing for an answer.
Thermostat Ease of Installation Winner
Once again it’s hard to separate the two brands in this category, there are pros and cons for both.
For me the ability of the Nest system to function without a C-wire is easier. However, it has to be balanced against the fact that ecobee provides an adapter. Since the Nest system doesn’t come with an adapter, there are still circumstances where it can’t function without one.
I also liked the touchscreen system on the ecobee above the Nest’s ‘twist and push’ functions.
Overall, the walkthroughs and guides provided from both were easy to read and follow. Both thermostats can be up and running in just over an hour, which is impressive.
In the end for me, the ease of installation winner is ecobee, it has a nicer interface, and the touchscreen made the whole setup process easier.
Smart Home Compatibility
While both manufacturers boast both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi in their latest models, the 5GHz band is only available on the ecobee thermostats from the 5th generation SmartThermostat model.
For the ecobee, the ecobee3 lite and ecobee4 have 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 GHZ), while the latest generation SmartThermostat is the first to offer dual-band connectivity, adding the 5GHZ range. Similarly, it wasn’t until the 5th generation that ecobee added Bluetooth.
The Nest thermostats offer compatibility with a wider range of wireless protocols: 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 GHZ/5GHZ), 802.15.4 (2.4GHZ) also known as Zigbee, and Bluetooth low energy connectivity.
Smart Home Ecosystem Compatibility
Looking at Smart Home Ecosystem compatibility with other hardware and systems is an important aspect when considering the pros and cons of the two brands.
Most modern WiFi routers are compatible with the thermostats, however when it comes to other Smart Home platforms it’s a different story.
The ecobee system is compatible with a whole host of smart home platforms.
- Apple HomeKit: By using Siri, you can monitor and control your thermostat across the range of Apple products.
- Samsung SmartThings: Using the SmartThings app, you have the ability to configure your ecobee system based on the input from sensors
- Wink: With the Wink app installed, it’s possible to control all the Smart objects within your home from a single app.
- IFTTT: Easily connect your other web-services to your ecobee thermostat to create if-this-then-that recipes.
- Google Home/Assistant: All ecobee smart thermostats can be controlled from Google Home or any device that supports the Google Assistant.
- Alexa: Not only do all ecobee thermostats work with Alexa, but the ecobee4 and ecobee SmartThermostat have Alexa built in. For ecobee3 Lite, you’ll need a smart speaker like the Echo series.
The situation with the Nest system is rather more complicated, although you can control it using Siri, Alexa and obviously Google Assistant, the other systems that are ecobee compatible are a different story.
For Samsung SmartThings, the answer at the time of writing is a resounding no. Where the story begins to get complicated is when we look at the situation with Wink and IFTTT.
Google discontinued their Works with Nest program and encouraged all users to migrate their Nest accounts to Google.
Unfortunately, doing so permanently severs connections between Nest and Wink, IFTTT and other 3rd party platforms.
There are workarounds in place, but it certainly isn’t as simple as with the ecobee systems.
Wireless Flexibility Winner
There’s no gray area here, the ecobee thermostat wins hands down for its compatibility with many smart home platforms.
It seems to me that ecobee went out of their way to ensure easy integrations with existing smart home systems.
You’ll be able to connect to other smart devices like your Alexa compatible smart locks and robot vacuum cleaners. You can set up a routine where you leave the house, your smart lock automatically locks, your ecobee smart thermostat turns the temperature down, and your Roomba i7+ or s9+ starts cleaning.
While Nest thermostats only work with other systems by using convoluted workarounds, if that’s even available. I don’t think most Nest thermostat users will want to go to all that work if they don’t already have a Google Nest based smart home.
Mobile App and Voice Control
The ecobee app, available on Android and iOS is simply called ecobee. It’s a very easy to use and intuitive app.
Straight away you’ll notice its interface is identical to the thermostat itself, so once you’ve learned how to navigate one, you can control both.
As for functionality, whatever you can do at the thermostat touchscreen, you can also achieve with the app. Functions including controlling temperature, setting schedules, turn heating on or off, checking status of equipment, access energy reports etc.
Some users have reported issues about having to log into the app repeatedly to save changes they have made. But overall, the user experience has been positive and glitches are likely to be resolved with ecobee’s frequent roll-out of updates.
For voice control, ecobee thermostats work with voice assistants Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Apple HomeKit devices, and Google Assistant.
Also, ecobee4 and ecobee SmartThermostat have Amazon Alexa built-in.
Both systems have a large selection of voice command, here’re the most common ones.
- Adjust temperature up or down
- Ask for current temperature
- Ask for sensor information
- Ask for heating/cooling to be turned off
- Ask what equipment is running
While the ecobee thermostat and app use the same interface, the same can’t be said for the Nest system.
The Nest thermostat and app work differently. Mentioned earlier, the thermostat is controlled by turning and pushing it. That’s fundamentally different from an app’s touchscreen interface.
The Nest app has pretty much the same options and commands as the ecobee system, although the energy reports aren’t as comprehensive as with its competitor.
Users have reported similar app issues as with the ecobee, but updates will likely resolve these.
Although the list of voice commands is similar to the ecobee system, the Nest is most compatible with its parent company’s voice assistant, Google Assistant.
The Nest thermostats don’t have built-in Alexa support and don’t offer any compatibility with Apple HomeKit. So if you have a Google home, the Nest will work seamlessly in your smart home.
Voice Control and App Winner
ecobee thermostats are the better choice for control with a mobile app and voice commands.
When it comes to voice control, ecobee is compatible with more systems.
And of course, Alexa is natively integrated in the ecobee4 and ecobee SmartThermostat models.
Smart Learning and Scheduling
Earlier versions of the ecobee thermostat (Gen 3 and 4 models) had no built-in capacity to learn. Out of the box you simply set your heating and cooling times and off you went.
However, they do support a useful feature called Smart Recovery that’s used for precooling and preheating.
Smart Recovery learns how long it takes your house to get to a desired temperature, so the thermostat will adjust when it turns on your HVAC system. This allows you to arrive home at your perfect, preferred temperature.
Then came eco+ ecobee introduced this as a free software upgrade which effectively gives the entire range a smart learning capability.
Using Features like – Smart Home & Away and Schedule Assistant – the thermostats monitor your thermostat schedule. When it doesn’t match with your daily routine, ecobee will recommend a new schedule.
Nest has good smart learning capabilities to help with saving on energy costs based on your preferred temperatures and routines.
All Nest thermostats can learn your schedule and adapt accordingly. After installation, the Nest will make several assumptions out-of-the-box as a baseline for its schedule.
As you adjust this depending on whether you are too hot or cold at a particular time, the thermostat takes this information and adjusts its own timings for the future.
As you continue to adjust, Nest will continually evolve to adjust itself to your lifestyle. It’s a great feature, but if you want to have a more conventional, set schedule, you can turn the automatic adjustments off.
Smart Learning and Scheduling Winner
If you want smart capability out of the box, then Nest is the clear winner. And the fact that it can be turned off as required is a bonus too.
Although the ecobee eco+ system is clever and boasts many of the same capabilities as the Nest system, you do have to register and install an upgrade. Extra steps, while Nest is built-in.
For smart learning capabilities and scheduling, the Nest thermostat is the clear winner.
Energy Savings and Reports
The ecobee thermostats record and analyze HVAC data for the last 18 months. In comparison to the Nest systems paltry 10-days.
Their analysis tool is called Home IQ and you can find it in the web console. Best of all, it’s a completely free service for as long as you own the thermostat.
The service monitors such variables as weather impact on your heating, total usage and it runs home efficiency comparisons using data gathered from other users in your area.
For energy savings, ecobee calculates these by monitoring how long your HVAC system runs in correlation with local weather forecasting and using a desired temperature of 72% as a base.
Armed with this data it calculates how much runtime was saved by your thermostat and compares it against the fuel costs for your area and calculates the savings.
ecobee estimates that with eco+ activated, energy saving benefits are 23% a year on their heating and cooling bills.
Although the Nest system includes data feedback, it records and holds the data for only 10-days.
Even though there’s data, it doesn’t have the detailed granularity that ecobee provides. Nest only shows a visual of the times your thermostat was on or off over the time period.
However, you do get a monthly email that shows your energy usage and compares it with other Nest users.
The energy savings with a Nest thermostat may not be as much as ecobee’s savings. According to Nest’s own figures, the Nest Learning Thermostat can achieve savings of 10-12% on heating and 15% on cooling.
Energy Savings Winner
As far as energy saving benefits and reports, ecobee is the clear winner with its detailed reports that can be dated back 180 days.
The two main remote sensors that the ecobee systems offer are Room Sensors and the newer SmartSensor.
Both remote sensors offer temperature readings, occupancy reading, and motion sensing capabilities with the newer SmartSensor offering greater range, motion sensing capability and easier set-up.
Using this data, the thermostat will adjust the heating and cooling to keep more frequently used and occupied areas at a comfortable temperature for everyone.
It wasn’t until ecobee launched its own remote sensors when releasing the ecobee3 that Nest sat up and took notice. And although they have now released Nest temperature sensors of their own, they do not have motion sensors like ecobee.
Also, Nest thermostats can only have a maximum of 6 remote sensors connected together. That’s nothing compared to ecobee’s maximum of 36 sensors.
Smart Sensors Winner
Once again ecobee tops this category. Better functionality and able to cope with a larger number of sensors make ecobee the clear winner.
If you have a large home, you’ll want the ecobee to connect the sensors together.
Multiple Zones and Floors
When used in conjunction with sensors, the ecobee system is highly efficient at zone control heating and cooling.
With features such as Follow Me, Home and Away, and a capability of connecting up to 36 smart sensors together, one thermostat can fulfill the needs of most homes. Mansions may need extra thermostats.
The app also allows you to set zone temperatures individually if your existing HVAC has zoned functionality.
While the Nest supports zone control heating, the lack of motion detection in its sensors doesn’t allow for a feature such as ecobee’s ‘Follow me’.
Although it does have zone control functionality within the app, Nest is limited to 6 smart sensors. That means you’ll need more thermostats.
Multiple Zones and Floors Winner
ecobee are the clear winner, with smarter sensors and the ability to have more of them attached to a single thermostat. ecobee is the hands-down winner.
Geofencing is a method that Smart Thermostats can use to switch heating on or off depending on your location (which is based on your phone).
For example, you may set it to switch the heating/cooling on or off if the phone is within or out-with a certain range.
The ecobee system does have a drawback of tying the geofencing to only one phone.
If the ecobee is tied to your phone, that means if you leave the house, the ecobee thermostat will turn down the temperature to save on energy costs.
You can override the settings and change the temperature manually, but you’ll need to remember to do that anytime you leave the house and there’s still someone home.
The Nest system offers the same functionality as the ecobee system. However, it does have a great advantage over its competitor.
The Nest system can support multiple phones, so if you leave the house and someone with a geofence connected smartphone is inside the house, the house’s temperature will stay comfortable. No one will be freezing.
Of course, in both systems, automatic temperature adjustments can be deactivated and overridden manually.
In this case it must be Nest, while both offer similar features, the support of multiple phones makes the Nest system stand out.
Top Thermostats: ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control vs Nest Learning Thermostat
Overall, the ecobee SmartThermostat is better than the Nest Learning Thermostat. ecobee has more functionality, compatibility with other smart home systems, customization options, better reporting and smarter sensors.
Both these thermostats come in at about the same price and both offer a lot of similar functions. The ecobee has the advantages of built-in voice control with Alexa and SmartSensors.
The Nest Learning Thermostat has the advantage of smart features straight out of the box. Other Nest advantages is the ability to have more than one phone set up with geofencing, and a wider choice of colors.
ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control - Programmable Wifi Thermostat - Works with Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant - Smart Thermostat for Home
- Save up to 26%*per year on heating and cooling costs. ENERGY STARcertified. Included SmartSensor (50 dollar value) adjusts the temperature in the rooms that matter most to reduce hot or cold spots to keep you comfortable.*Compared to a hold of 72°F/22°C.
- Included SmartSensor keeps you comfortable where you
Google Nest Learning Thermostat - Programmable Smart Thermostat for Home - 3rd Generation- Works with Alexa - Black
- Programmable smart thermostat that learns your schedule and the temperatures you like and programs itself to help you save energy and stay comfortable
- Home/Away Assist automatically adjusts itself to an Eco Temperature after you leave so you don't heat or cool an empty home
- Remote control lets family
Mid-Range: ecobee4 vs Nest Thermostat E
The ecobee4 has the advantage of offering built-in Alexa voice control.
Another advantage is the ecobee4’s ability to handle up to two-stage heating (and up to four if you use a heat pump) and two-stage cooling.
The Nest E only supports one stage of heating and cooling. With a single extra stage available for either heating or cooling, but not both.
Both thermostats have functions similar to the top-of-the-line siblings, the ecobee SmartThermostat and Nest Learning Thermostat.
With not much to choose between them, it must be the ecobee again with its wider feature range again swinging the vote.
ecobee4 Smart Thermostat with Built-in Alexa, Room Sensor Included
- SAVE MONEY: Homeowners save up to 23% annually on heating or cooling costs, plus ecobee pays for itself in under 2 years (compared to a hold of 72 degrees).
- ROOM SENSORS: Place them in the rooms that matter the most and have the temperature balanced throughout your whole
Google Nest Thermostat E, Smart Thermostat, White, and Google Nest Temperature Sensor Bundle
- Frosted Display: Blends into the background and fits into any home. Heat pump is with auxiliary and emergency heat (O/B, AUX)
- Remote Control: Use the Nest app to change the temperature from anywhere – the beach, the office or your bed.
- Energy-Saving Features: Like the Nest Learning Thermostat,
Budget Friendly: ecobee3 Lite vs Nest Thermostat
The ecobee3 Lite doesn’t have built-in Alexa voice control, but it is easily connected to a large number of compatible smart devices. You’ll need to jump through some hoops to connect the Nest Thermostat to a small list of compatible devices.
Function-wise, they both offer similar range of functions and are priced similarly. But the number of sensors that can attach to the ecobee makes it the winner for me in this field.
ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat - Programmable Wifi Thermostat - Works with Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant - Energy Star Certified - DIY Install, Black
- Save up to 23% annually on heating and cooling costs (compared to a hold of 72°F)
- Control from anywhere using your Android or iOS device
- Add SmartSensor to manage hot or cold spots and deliver enhanced comfort to the rooms that matter most
- Automatically pauses your heating or
Google Nest Thermostat - Smart Thermostat for Home - Programmable Wifi Thermostat - Snow
- ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostat for home that helps you save energy and stay comfortable.Product note: You can also check your system’s compatibility before purchasing a Nest thermostat with our online Nest Compatibility Checker on the Google Nest support page.Connectivity Protocol : Wi-Fi.Connectivity Protocol : Wi-Fi
- The Nest
Final Thoughts on ecobee vs Nest Thermostat
The ecobee brand and its lineup of smart thermostats came out as the clear winner for me in this ecobee vs Nest thermostat comparison.
ecobee thermostats can handle more sensors for accuracy, are more compatible with other devices, have better data recording, and more customizations for personal comfort preferences.
Nest thermostats are still great and easy to use for those less technically inclined. This might help you decide if an ecobee or Nest thermostat will be better for you.
ecobee thermostats are better for people who like to customize settings until they get the set up the way they like it. They’re willing to put in the time and effort to make it fit your lifestyle.
Nest thermostats are for those of us who just want to unpack the Nest out of the box, install it, switch it on, and let it learn from your daily routines and occasional manual overrides.
In either case one thing is sure, smart thermostats are here to stay.
While both systems have pros and cons, there are far more pros. They will save you money and make your life easier. Smart thermostats are the future, in these days of climate change, each unit of energy we save can help protect the environment.
If you every have any issues with the Nest, check out the How to Reset a Nest Thermostat article.